FORT MYERS, Fla. — In an otherwise quiet offseason, Andrew Benintendi ranked among the most widely pursued free agents in baseball.
Benintendi, 23, who is entering his second full season with the Red Sox, wasn’t a free agent in the conventional sense. He is still two full seasons from being eligible for arbitration.
But when Benintendi’s former agent, Jason Wood of CSE, was fired by his agency and suspended by the MLB Players Association in January for allegedly using a hidden camera to film clients, a frenzy of agents pursued the young outfielder.
“I got a lot of text messages and phone calls,” said Benintendi. “My dad pretty much handled a lot of it. I just said, ‘Here’s my dad’s e-mail if you want to reach out. We’ll be in contact.’ He pretty much took control of that, narrowed it down to a few guys.”
The exercise wasn’t one that Benintendi sought, but in a way, it did prove eye-opening to hear members of the industry offer their views on what kind of eventual earnings might be possible. Still, he recognized that will be dictated less by what an agent says now and more on how he plays.
“It was kind of cool to see, if everything goes the way we think where you could end up,” said Benintendi. “But it all starts on the field. Just got to keep playing.”
Prospective agents would try to get a sense of what Benintendi preferred for his future — to negotiate deals on a year-to-year basis or strike a long-term deal. However, that wasn’t central to Benintendi’s decision-making process.
“I haven’t really thought about [an extension],” he said. “I kind of just do my own thing and don’t really worry about anything else other than playing right now. That was also something that went into picking an agent.
“I’m pretty laidback. I don’t worry about too much. I like to just go back and relax. Just picking someone who’s behind the scenes.”
In the end, Benintendi chose Casey Close of Excel Sports Management, an agent who has secured long-term deals for homegrown stars such as Derek Jeter, Clayton Kershaw, Ryan Howard, and Freddie Freeman but has also taken several clients to free agency.
Close, said Benintendi, was “just someone I could kind of relate to, who was laidback — pretty much the same as my previous one. It was just a matter of who I felt comfortable with the most.
“I think it went as well as it could have.”
Not much contact
What might the Red Sox have done if J.D. Martinez had signed elsewhere? Over the winter, Martinez was their clear top choice, but even as they remained confident in a match with the slugger, they couldn’t take such an outcome for granted. With a need to add power, and once they reupped first baseman Mitch Moreland (thus taking them out of the Eric Hosmer sweepstakes), the most obvious alternative to Martinez was Logan Morrison.
Like Martinez, Morrison (who is four days younger than Martinez) was coming off a career-best season, in which he hit .246/.353/.516 with 38 homers for the Rays.
So how far did conversations between Morrison and the Sox progress before Martinez was signed?
“I had zero conversations with the Red Sox, myself,” said Morrison. “My agent had a conversation with them at the Winter Meetings but that was it. I don’t think it got anything past that.”
Morrison, who wound up with a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Twins that includes a team option for 2019, expressed mild surprise that the Red Sox didn’t pursue him more aggressively. Yet in the context of the slowest-developing offseason market in memory, he didn’t find it alarming.
“Am I surprised? I guess. I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know if it was the most shocking thing I saw [in the market].
“In years past, the Yankees did something crazy, right? They went and got [Giancarlo] Stanton. In years past, they get Stanton, ‘We’re going to get J.D. right now.’ And I’d go right after that.
“Obviously, that’s not the way it happened this year. So, nothing was really surprising after that, I guess.”
It’s up to Kimbrel
Closer Craig Kimbrel threw live batting practice to hitters in the Boston area. Kimbrel continues to stay in Boston, where his infant daughter Lydia is improving in her recovery from heart surgery. “He feels that he’s actually in a better place as far as his strength and his arm than the previous years, so that’s a good sign,” said manager Alex Cora. “Obviously, it’s about Lydia. If she keeps improving, they’ll make a decision as a family. Whatever they decide, we’ll agree with. If he has to stay up there, he stays. If he comes down, he comes down.”
The Red Sox’ injured starting pitchers continue to make progress in their buildups. Eduardo Rodriguez is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Tuesday. Steven Wright will throw three innings of live batting practice Saturday, and Drew Pomeranz will throw two innings of a simulated game Sunday. Righthander Hector Velazquez, who had been scheduled to pitch against the Rays Saturday, will instead pitch in a minor league game so that he doesn’t face a team that he’s lined up to start against in the first series of the regular season . . . With the start of the season nearing, the Red Sox hope to get a look at Mookie Betts in center field in the coming days as a potential option in road games when Jackie Bradley Jr. is out of the lineup. Betts made it clear to Cora that he’s ready, able, and willing to play center . . . The Sox also plan to start bringing in relievers on back-to-back days and in specific situations to anticipate their regular-season usage.
Mourning his coach
Righthander Brandon Workman, who pitched at the University of Texas for three years, reflected on the death Thursday of legendary Longhorns coach Augie Garrido at 79. “Honestly, I’ve never met somebody more dedicated to the game of baseball,” said Workman. “”He taught us a lot about the competitive mind-set and winning. It was an honor to be able to play for him.”